Scissorhands of the instant haircut

Barbershops and hair salons, more than other locally owned businesses, seem to reflect the immediate community around them. Walking into one convenience store or another, things aren’t so different from town to town, although I acknowledge that the suburban WaWa in Maryland isn’t the same as the below street level no name mart of DC. But one cramped store or another, if you need bandages for your ouchie, you can get them anywhere. And you’ll probably get a similar indifferent quality of service at either, whether high school students with pimples or embittered older city clerks are the ones selling them to you.

Not so the barbershop. The barbershop, in my limited experience, is really about who lives in that neighborhood. There was one near my job in Baltimore that was like a scene out of Tim Story’s movie, with all the yammering and disagreement over the local sports team, in this case, the Ravens (go Ravens!). A line of tall mirrors all along the walls that were accidentally feminine and reminiscent of a beauty salon. Three customer chairs for the hair and beard trimming that were reasonably new and very nondescript. No actual decorating of any kind and I can’t even recall what color the walls were painted or even if they were painted. 

Barbershops seem to never have a name, other than to use the name of the owner, like Alex’s Barbershop, as in the preceding example. They relieve themselves of the cutesy but horrifically bad establishment names that plague the hair salon industry, like Kidz Cutz (which sounds like an alternative to abandoning your kids in Nebraska), Happy Beauty Salon (conveniently located next to the Happy Buddha all you can eat Chinese buffet), Shear Pleasure (only if you come out of there with something you like, right?), and She Bangz, which seriously has got to be one of the worst names I’ve ever heard of for a salon. But hey, there are more

 

Outside the barbershop in Walla Walla

Outside the barbershop in Walla Walla

Now I’ve gotten some pretty bad haircuts in my day, and by bad I mean torturously uneven, with a harsh line carved into the back of my neck so that people behind me can earnestly relive 1986, some bad dye jobs, you name it. Thus I have some trepidation about going to just any old place. I hesitated and procrastinated going anyplace once we moved to Walla Walla — I even went to a supercuts in Alexandria, Virginia, while I was traveling because I hadn’t gone to the barbershop in town, and I knew that at some point I was going to have to break down and just try it. In my defense, I did attempt to go once, but it was a Tuesday or something and god knows only half the stores are open on Monday and Tuesday around here. I nearly picked up my own clippers to cut my hair myself, but good sense won out in the end.

My fast-growing but thinning hair needs a cut every 4 weeks or so, so I trudged on in to Sung’s Barbershop here in town, not having any faith at all that I wasn’t going to look like a stuck sheep upon my exit. Having a friend named Sang I was prepared for meeting someone with the present perfect tense of the name. Hey, Sang’s a nice guy. Sung is not a nice guy. Sung is a taciturn woman with a scarce smile and an obvious sense of skepticism. I appreciated all of that. 

This barbershop, or rather, barber’s shop, was unlike any other I have ever had the fortune to enter. There was a  beat-up, used-to-be-white sofa on one wall, and which only gave access to patrons on one half, because the other half was already occupied by a dozing sharpei. One wall was covered in baseball caps and below them, seemingly random pictures that I supposed had specific meaning or value to Sung. A piece of torn, white cardboard announced the pricing structure: Haircuts, $12 Seniors, $9 Beard Trim $5. Wow, I can get a senior for $9? That’s a bargain.

A small, dirty mirror allowed customers to see a 3 square inch area of their heads while she was clipping away, and the lone chair was a relic from the 1940s. I wonder how many people have had a haircut in that chair. Must be thousands. There were lots of pictures of the Walla Walla valley, old pictures of the valley ridges before the windmills moved in, sending who knows how many kilowatts to California. It was kind of Old West meets baseball fanatic.

In a town of 29,000, of course it stands to reason that the person already in the chair getting his haircut was one of the 16 I’ve met since moving here. He stood up at the end of his cut and shook my hand. She gesticulated that I should sit down. This was no suburban Supercuts, nor was it a DC/Baltimore chat shop. I told her how I like it cut, not using any parlance like “high and tight,” and she cut it exactly as I asked, in 6.2 minutes. I was really happy with it, which of course I couldn’t show her because I was certain it would unravel the time/space continuum in the store, or something. I gave her a generous tip and headed out, relived that I have a place to go when Susanne starts making comments about how long my hair is getting. I just have to remember not to go there on Monday or Tuesday.

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One Comment on “Scissorhands of the instant haircut”

  1. Becky Betts
    December 16, 2008 at 5:02 am #

    Ev,
    You’re quite the writer – yes, I read it all.
    Bob was so flattered to have a nod as the “other guy” in the barber shop. He has a love / hate relationship with Sung.
    Let’s go out for coffee soon!
    Becky B.
    p.s. Before our remodel we enjoyed a pink bathtub. When we updated, it was the first to go. Spencer is so nostalgic, he’s been upset since. He’s been watching a few on Ebay. Yeah, right.
    Anyway, he really enjoyed your upstairs bathroom. Although I didn’t get the privilege of a gander, he has talked about little else. Again, thanks for an enjoyable evening.

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